Musicals Meme

I’ve seen this musicals meme flying around, so I’ve put down my own thoughts. Some categories were trickier than others…

Musical I love: The Phantom of the Opera

Musical I think is underrated: City of Angels

Musical I cherish: Salad Days

Musical I think is overrated: The Book of Mormon

Musical I hate: Blood Brothers

Musical I sob through: Les Miserables

Musical that keeps me laughing: Moby Dick!

Musical I could listen to on repeat: In the Heights

Musical with songs I skip: Billy Elliot

Guilty pleasure musical: Rock of Ages

Game changer musical: Hamilton

Musical I’m most excited to see: Hamilton

I’d love to know everyone else’s thoughts!

My thoughts on Emma Rice leaving Shakespeare’s Globe

The big theatre news today is that Emma Rice is stepping down as Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe. I must admit that the first thing I felt when I heard this news was unrivalled joy (followed by guilt: I’m not that heartless, and at the end of the day, someone has lost their job).

When Rice’s appointment was announced, I had major reservations. She had only directed one Shakespeare play in the past, and admitted in interviews that his work “sent her to sleep”. I was surprised, to be honest, that she was considered the best choice. Still, I wanted to give her a chance: her first season sounded genuinely interesting, and as a feminist I wanted to celebrate and support the fact that a woman had been chosen for such a major post. Rice had been really successful as AD of Kneehigh theatre company, and there was the possibility that she would be able to translate that success to the Globe.

I’ve reviewed the productions that I’ve seen this summer, but by and large, I was disappointed. A Midsummer Night’s Dream in particular, so acclaimed by many, bored me and the modern lighting, which lit the stage while leaving the pit in darkness, left the audience removed from the action, destroying the very thing that made the Globe special – the relationship between actor and audience that brought Shakespeare’s plays to life in a way I haven’t experienced in any other theatre I’ve visited.

The statement from the Globe Board suggests that these same concerns have led to Rice’s departure. Some people have suggested that this is a smokescreen and there are other issues at stake, and they may be right: I have no professional involvement in the theatre business, and I don’t pretend to know how boards work or how the Globe Board thinks, but to me it’s entirely plausible, and I wholeheartedly agree with this statement in particular:

The Globe was reconstructed as a radical experiment to explore the conditions within which Shakespeare and his contemporaries worked, and we believe this should continue to be the central tenet of our work.

I am slightly puzzled as to why Rice was appointed in the first place: surely the board knew about her previous work and (lack of) Shakespeare experience? What did they expect?

It bothers me that the argument has been presented by many commentators as boring and safe and traditional versus diverse and new and exciting. As if the theatre under Mark Rylance and Dominic Dromgoole was ever just a museum piece. I’ve had some of the most exciting experiences I’ve ever had in the theatre at the Globe during the latter’s tenure, from midnight matinées to the Henry VI trilogy day, which ended in pouring rain that still didn’t spoil the event, and from the amazing Globe to Globe Festival in 2012 to the triumphant return of the World Hamlet company earlier this year after spending two years travelling the (real) Globe. I’d argue that in a city full of theatres that often produce (brilliant) modern day Shakespeare, the Globe actually adds to cultural diversity by offering a unique experience with Shakespeare largely performed in traditional dress and making use of practices in keeping with the ethos of the theatre. This doesn’t mean that everything has to be completely authentic – some critics have suggested that they should go the whole hog and hand out Elizabethan diseases and let people piss on the floor, which is completely missing the point. I also hope that Rice’s accessibility innovations are kept, such as surtitles, sign language interpreted performances, and relaxed performances. I do think that any decision needs to work with the space, not against it: the lighting rigs and microphones, however, show a fundamental lack of understanding of the Globe space – effectively trying to push a square peg into a round hole, and turning the Globe into a theatre just like any other, with the added disadvantage that you might get rained on. I appreciate that lots of people loved A Midsummer Night’s Dream, even if I hated it, but my biggest issue was that it could have been performed absolutely anywhere.

I honestly wish Emma Rice all the best. I’m sure she’ll find the success she deserves: it’s telling that my favourite production of her 2016 season was not a Shakespeare, but The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, a work Rice originally directed with Kneehigh. I would love to see more of her work away from the Globe, and I hope whoever is chosen to be the theatre’s next Artistic Director loves and respects Shakespeare, and is able to work with the space to make wonderful productions.

Shows the Chuckle Brothers could star in

A few weeks ago, I saw Waiting for Godot at the Barbican. On Twitter, I mused on whether the Chuckle Brothers could take on the roles of Vladimir and Estragon.

chucklegodot1

chucklegodot2

Some readers may be too young or too old to remember the Chuckle Brothers and their BBC TV show, ChuckleVision, which ran from 1987 to 2009. If so, I direct you to this music video starring Tinchy Stryder and the Chuckle Brothers, easily the greatest track of 2014. I was a huge fan as a child – one of the highlights of my youthful theatre experience was seeing them in panto – and their catchphrases, including “To Me, To You” (as demonstrated in the below video) and “Oh dear… oh dear oh dear”, will be familiar to most people between the ages of 25 and 35.

I appreciate that the above will probably make me sound incredibly uncool, but hey, I’ve been uncool all my life, and I’m cool with that. Lately I’ve been thinking about other plays the duo could star in – because, why not?

The Comedy of Errors

Shakespeare’s comedy of mistaken identity would be a perfect fit for the brothers’ daft humour. I can see them in the roles of the servants, Dromio of Ephesus and Dromio of Syracuse. Their real-life brothers, Jimmy and Brian (the Patton Brothers, who have also appeared in Chucklevision, the former as regular character “Mr No-Slacking”), could play Antipholus of Ephesus and Antipholus of Syracuse. I’ve got it all worked out, honestly.

City of Angels

An offbeat choice perhaps, but I can totally see Barry and Paul as Stine/Stone in this Cy Coleman musical. If Chucklevision was still going, they could totally have filmed an episode spoofing the show. Stine and Stone have a complex relationship of mutual dependency, just like Paul and Barry.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are the original Chuckle Brothers, don’t you think? This existentialist comedy would be a brilliant vehicle for the duo and the absurd tone would suit them very well.

Come to think of it, they could also have a cameo role in Hamlet.

Anyone have any other suggestions for the brothers? Any chance of them actually taking part in any of these? I would pay good money to see these performances…

Theatre jewellery

As the existence of this blog might suggest, I have an obsession with theatre. I also have an obsession with jewellery. Even when I was little I used to always run towards the jewellery stands in the shops, attracted by the pretty shiny things on display. With that in mind, I have found some awesome jewellery with a theatre theme.

Theatre masks

The comedy and tragedy masks that symbolise theatre date from the ancient Greeks and they are popular symbols for theatre-related jewellery. This mask necklace, as well as matching earrings, pin and ring, are available from the gift shop at Shakespeare’s Globe.

Mask Necklace

Continuing the mask theme, Lady Muck of Whitstable make these mask earrings in gold or silver. I’ve also seen these earrings at the Globe shop, as well as a matching necklace.

Comedy and Tragedy Mask Studs

Musicals

If you’re a fan of musicals, you’re in luck as popular musicals usually have lots of memorabilia. This gorgeous Phantom necklace can be found on the Really Useful Group site.

Phantom Antique Pewter Christine Necklace

There is also this pretty Wizard of Oz charm bracelet.

Wizard of Oz Charm Bracelet

Talking of charm bracelets, this Oliver! version is quite sweet.

Oliver! – Charm Bracelet

For the Wicked fangirls out there, this necklace is a dream.

Defy Gravity Necklace

If dance is more your thing, this Riverdance-themed ghillies (Irish dance shoes) necklace might suit.

Riverdance Ghillies necklace

My favourite play of all time is The Seagull, so I love this seagull-themed necklace from Tatty Devine.

Tatty Devine Seagull Necklace

Are you a Noël Coward fan? Channel Madame Arcati from Blithe Spirit with this necklace from MisfitMakes on Etsy.

Fortune Teller Necklace

Another favourite play of mine is Noises Off, and this Triple Sardine Necklace from Little Moose is the perfect way to pay tribute.

Triple Sardine Necklace by Little Moose

A fan of Sweeney Todd might like this decadent gothic necklace from Curiology Jewellery, also on Etsy.

The Demon Barber lace and razorblade necklace

Ballet fans might like the range of ballet tutu-inspired jewellery at the Royal Opera House. They aren’t online, but they can be found in the physical shop at Covent Garden. There are bangles, rings and earrings inspired by costumes for both the Firebird and Swan Lake.

Firebird-inspired bangle, via goingtotheballet on Pinterest

Do you have any favourite pieces of theatre-themed or inspired jewellery?

Play a Day

Back in June I joined in with the Borough Press‘s Twitter chat #bookadayuk, in which participants talked about the books they loved. I have been inspired to create a similar chat about the theatre – please join in with #playaday!*

There’s no need to stick rigidly to the prompts, and you don’t have to join in every day if you don’t want to – I just want to get lots of people talking about theatre, whether you’re a superfan or a relative newbie.

  1. Your earliest theatrical experience
  2. Best bargain
  3. Do you prefer plays or musicals?
  4. Favourite play by a living playwright
  5. If you were an actor, which character in which play would you love to be?
  6. The play you would take a theatre newbie to see
  7. Immersive theatre – love it or hate it?
  8. The funniest play you’ve seen
  9. A play you were made to read or study at school
  10. A production starring your favourite actor/actress
  11. A play you gave a standing ovation to
  12. Favourite Shakespeare
  13. A play you left at the interval
  14. A play you thought would be great, that turned out to be terrible
  15. A play you had low expectations for, that turned out to be fantastic
  16. A play you would love to see, but you haven’t had a chance yet
  17. A play you could watch again and again
  18. A memorable production (as opposed to a play itself)
  19. A play that had a particularly profound effect on the way you see the world
  20. Theatrical guilty pleasure
  21. A play in an unusual setting (not necessarily immersive)
  22. Favourite children’s play
  23. A play everyone should see
  24. The play you have seen the most
  25. A play that you saw with someone you love
  26. A particularly memorable theatrical moment in a play you saw
  27. A play in which something went wrong on stage
  28. A play you thought deserved more success than it received
  29. A play you think is overrated
  30. A play adapted from a film or TV show
  31. Favourite play of all time

 

*Though I almost always use the word “play” here feel free to assume that it encompasses musicals, opera, ballet and dance too – anything performance-related, basically. It’s just that “playaday” sounds better, and #playormusicalorballetoroperaaday was a bit too long a hashtag.

The joys of pantomime

Earlier this month I was disappointed to read this article on a US theatre website. In essence, the author objects to the ubiquity of pantomime during the winter in Britain, a tradition which she dismisses as a bunch of “bathroom jokes, television comedians and painted canvas animals” full of “sexual innuendo” and “bad scriptwriting”. Actually, she’s not far wrong: it’s her later complaint that I take issue with. She bemoans the fact that a pantomime may be the only theatre performance a British child attends all year, suggesting that this is why theatregoing is in decline among the young. I completely disagree.

I was brought up on panto. From a very young age, I was taken to the theatre to see a pantomime every year by my paternal grandparents. We always went in January, and it was lovely to counteract the gloom of the post-Christmas winter with a bright and cheerful pantomime. My brother and cousins came too, but by the end there was only me, aged seventeen, with my granda and grandma, my cousins having left home to go to university and my younger brother, aged fifteen, having cried off. I still loved it every bit as much. I have seen pantomime only sporadically since then, but except for last year’s Peter Pan at Sunderland Empire (which was uncharacteristically disappointing) I have thoroughly enjoyed myself each time.

I don’t believe I ever saw any other kind of theatre until I was around fourteen. My auntie took me to see some musicals when the family took a trip down to London. My grandparents, after seeing how much I enjoyed the pantomime, brought me with them to see some ‘serious’ plays, such as Of Mice and Men and A View From the Bridge. Would I have seen these without having previously attended panto? It’s unlikely.

The author of the article wonders if children are put off the theatre because the panto is the only experience of it they get. Personally, I would question how many children would actually set foot inside a theatre at all if it wasn’t for panto. Theatre is an expensive business, especially when you have a family – it’s unlikely my parents would have been able to afford to take me on a regular basis. It can also be rather intimidating to the uninitiated. Theatres are beautiful buildings, but they can be overwhelming. Far better to become familiar with theatregoing via an annual panto, than to not go at all and end up viewing theatre as something other, something that only well-off people do.

Of course, not everyone who enjoys panto as a child will go on to love the theatre. But even if they don’t, what’s wrong with enjoying one of the longest-running and silliest traditions on the British stage? It doesn’t preclude enjoyment of other forms of theatre.

I enjoy lots of different kinds of theatre, from traditional Shakespeare to unusual modern plays, OTT musicals and immersive shows. And I still think there’s nothing better than a good panto.